At the Festival of Chefs on May 9th
To follow our tradition of last year's ramp up to the Festival, we will be posting a profile of the participating Chefs and their establishments. For your reading pleasure, Big Cheese, Briemer, and O-reagano are once again having amazing meals, taking pics, and sharing the whole delicious experience on this blog.
This year we begin with Alida Solomon's Tutti Matti-- a little Italian oasis on Adelaide near Spadina. It's the place with a boar sign hanging above the door-- and yes, boar is on the menu.
Known for its dedication to seasonal and regional Tuscan cuisine, this is a kitchen that introduces a different flavour of Italian more or less unfamiliar to many people, myself included. As the story goes, Ms. Solomon decided to make this style of cuisine her focus after a few (apparently fabulous) years of living in Tuscany, and makes regular visits (with staff) in search of ingredients to bring back here.
I noticed that the menu included a number of dishes that used humble-but-ever-versatile cabbage in various dishes, and a couple that incorporated chestnuts. House-made pastas are, as you would expect, prominent on the menu, as well as less-expected ingredients like chickpeas and lentils. Hearty, deceptively simple ingredients, intense flavours. This would be my first impression of the cuisine of the region, and what I would consider quite a compelling introduction.
~Traditional Caprese Salad of organic heirloom tomatoes, Bufala Mozarella, olive oil, and fresh basil
~Fresh figs wrapped in prosciutto with balsamic reduction
~House-made rosemary poundcake topped with telegio cheese, sauteed black cabbage, speck, and a balsamic reduction.
I am such a fan of Bufala mozerella-- it's always a treat, and that crunchy black cabbage was unusual and satisfying. I have to say my favourite from this plate was definitely the prosciutto- wrapped figs. I could eat an entire platter of them. It was a heavenly marriage of textures and flavours in a perfect bite-sized morsel.
Chickpea Crepe with three cheeses, vegetable medley, and truffle honey:
This was brought to us unexpectedly, and was a most welcome surprise. Filled with three cheeses and a hearty, rustic vegetable medley, the whole concoction was brought together with a drizzle of truffle honey-- an accent of sweetness and aromatic pungency.
On to the Mains...
Pan-seared scallops with pancetta, lentils and 9 year-old aged balsamic:
For a seafood fiend like myself, you can't top a soft, silky, sweet, seared scallop. This was paired, at the suggestion of the server, with a white wine that would offset the acidity of the lentil mixture.
Quince-stuffed Berkshire pork chop with chestnut, white wine, balsamic cabbage, prosciutto and roasted parsnips
The Berkshire pork was juicy and flavourful, combining marvelously well with stewed chestnuts and the tang of the balsamic cabbage. Quite the massive hunk of meat too! It was clearly very popular, judging by how many of them we saw carried past our table.
As for desserts-- well, you saw the above pictures--there was so much food we couldn't dream of eating another bite. Of course I studied the list anyway for future reference, and there are some options (Lemon tart with pine nuts, Vanilla Cream of the day) that I'm determined to sample.
My plan for return? Dessert first!
Last year, our first "Chef Profile" post started with Anthony Walsh and Canoe Restaurant. He is also the first Chef to appear at the 2010 Festival -- this Saturday, May 1. Read our Canoe profile from 2009 here.